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What even was that?

There were two games this season Xavier couldn’t afford to lose. They just lost one.

NCAA Basketball: St. John at Xavier
Julian Champagnie and his son pose for a family photo
Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

Just stupid. There’s no other way to describe losing that game. Xavier dropped from 24th to 38th in the KenPom by losing one of the two games that they could not afford to lose. Missing Nate Johnson was a huge loss for the team, though one wonders if him simply standing would be worse on defense than Zach Freemantle. The Musketeers were in a spot where all they had to do was go 2-4 in the last six games. They have so thoroughly crapped the bed now that they have to win a tough game. Stupid.

Xavier needs Nate Johnson

Xavier averaged less than a point per possession because they had no one who can make a three point shot. Adam Kunkel (9/3/2) made a game effort, but he was 2-7. No other Musketeer made more than one three as the team went 4-20. Make no mistake, 20 was probably the lowest amount that X should have taken this game as SJU packed the paint and dared the Musketeers to beat them from deep. They couldn’t. Paul Scruggs (16/2/5) only took two for reasons best known to him.

Xavier’s defense was garbage

If Zach Freemantle (10/4/4) isn’t getting 20 points or a double double it can reasonably asked if he’s a positive contributor to this team. To call his defense swinging gate would be doing a great disservice to gates, as they do occasionally keep things out. His inability to stay in front of his man meant that Xavier was constantly in rotation and subsequently watching the Red Storm go 8-20 from deep. Julian Champagnie brutalized Colby Jones (7/9/5), who just couldn’t contain him anywhere on the floor.

Someone needs to step up

There seems to come a point in every game where Jack Nunge (22/7/2) looks around and realizes that it is happening again and he has to do it all himself. Tonight he had four turnovers and couldn’t find a rhythm because St. John’s set their defense about 10 feet from the basket. Paul Scruggs scored well, but never really tried to take the game over. Adam Kunkel hunted his shots, but they didn’t fall. Colby Jones has spent the Big East season anonymous and was so again tonight. His projected breakout has very much not happened.

This is becoming enormously frustrating

Some of this is on the coaching. There is no point in coming off the bench for a blistering 10 minute eight point performance if that earns you one minute in the next two games. Genuinely, why try? If Zach Freemantle can be enormously disappointing on both ends and just keep playing, that’s on the coach. So is the way Xavier initially struggled with the SJU defense. (That said, turnovers weren’t really an issue tonight.) An expletive laced outburst from Coach Steele would have at least matched what most fans were doing.

And some of this is on the players. Xavier desperately needed someone to make a shot tonight. No one did. None of the coaches shot 4-20 from behind the arc. X isn’t going to win anything if no one can make a shot. Make even seven and this is a vastly different game. Mike Anderson took a gamble that he could pack the paint and let his shot blockers work because Xavier can’t shoot. No one stepped up and proved him wrong while the Musketeers only consistent deep threat sat and watched.

It’s asinine to call this season a disappointment already and equally ignorant to make vague pronouncements about Xavier being a bubble team. Despite burning through a lot of their margin, they still aren’t there. That doesn’t keep this from being maddening. The team that played well against Seton Hall and then beat UConn was nowhere to be seen tonight. Until a coach figures out why or a Xavier player suddenly remembers how to shoot, that’s how it will be. This team could easily land in the Sweet 16. They could also dump out to a determined Iona. God alone knows which is more likely.